Paul's Passionate Focus and Ours (Romans Sermon 113 of 120)
September 03, 2006 | Andy Davis
Introduction: Why Do You Do What You Do?
I want to begin this morning by asking a searching question. Why do you do what you do? Why do you do everything that you do? Do you know why you do what you do? The story is told in the days after the October Revolution, that brought communism to Russia, that the leaders of the communist movement were looking for future leaders of the nation, and so they set people to different tasks, to different jobs, and there were three men that were assigned to build a brick wall. And after they'd been working a while, the leaders went to the first man and asked him, "What are you doing?" He said, "I'm putting this brick up on that wall." They went to the second man and said, "Comrade, what are you doing?" He said, "I'm building a brick wall." They went to the third man and said, "Comrade, what are you doing?" He said, "I'm building a new world." They chose the third man to be the leader out of those three, because he had a vision for what the communists were trying to do. Now, history has proven, the 20th century has proven that vision was empty, it was really a satanic lie. Wasn't a new world they were building, but that's what that man thought they were doing. And so, I put to you today, what is your vision for what you're doing? Let's take a test case of why you came to church this morning.
Why did you come to church this morning? Well, it's what you do on Sunday, I'm putting this brick up on that wall, you see. Well, because I want to be a good leader to my family, and my dad, he took me to church, and I want my family to be raised right, I want them to learn the right way to live, and I think you can't do that without church. I'm building a brick wall. I come to church because the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has saved me, and he's building a kingdom that will never end, and to the praise of his glory, I want to live for him. And I want to be sharpened in my own gifts, and I want to be prepared to advance the Gospel, and I can't do that unless I go to church. And furthermore, he, being the Lord and master of my life, has commanded me to do this. I'm building a new world. What's your view of why you do everything you do? I think we're going to get a glimpse this morning into why Paul did what he did.
And I want to begin by asking a simple question about the Apostle Paul that comes right up out of the text. And the question is, why hadn't Paul visited Rome yet? That's the question I want to put before you. Comes right out of the text. Why hadn't he come yet? Paul is seeking to answer that question. Now, last week, we had, somewhat unusually, a whole sermon, essentially, about one verse. I don't do that often, and thank God for it. Alright. We'd still be back in Romans Chapter 6 with no end in sight. Alright. So as one sermon... And I think it was useful and beneficial to focus in on one verse, and to try to understand Biblical counseling. And that's fine, and good, but now I want to take a step back from the careful consideration we gave to that one verse. And, by the way, every verse of scripture bears that kind of careful scrutiny, and more. We're not saying that. But I want to just take a step back, and look at the whole context of why Paul talked about competent to counsel. What was he getting at there? And I think, in this section of Romans 15, he's seeking to do three things. First, he's explaining to them why he hadn't visited Rome yet, why he hadn't been there yet. Secondly, he's asking them for help on his way to Spain. And thirdly, he's preparing them for a very short stay in Rome when he's on his way to Spain. I think those three things he's doing, among some other things, such as explaining his whole strategy for missions, which we'll get to, God willing, next time.
I. Why Paul Hadn’t Visited Rome
But I want to say to you that Paul deeply wanted to visit Rome. The Roman Christian should not, in any way, feel slighted by the fact that Paul hadn't been there yet. It wasn't as though he didn't want to come. It wasn't as though he felt... He thought very little of their progress in the Gospel, or felt that they weren't a strategic church. No, no, no, far from it, Paul affirms several times in this letter how many times he wanted to come to them, and how deeply he yearned to have fellowship with them. Right in chapter one, verse 8 and following, he says this, "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world." So, no, you're not an insignificant congregation, you're right there in the heart of the Roman Empire. And then he said, "God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the Gospel of his son, is my witness, how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times." So, no, I don't fail to care for you, I care deeply for you. And I pray that now, at last, by God's will, the way may be open for me to come to you. "I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong, that is that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to see, but have been prevented from doing so until now, in order that I might have a harvest among you, as I've had among the other Gentiles."
So, no, Paul didn't fail to desire to come, he wanted to go to Rome. So, if Paul deeply wanted to share Christian fellowship with them, and if it would have been a richly blessed time if he had come, then why hadn't Paul been there yet? Well, that's what he's seeking to answer here. And why would he only be passing through quickly on his way to Spain? Again, that's what he's seeking to answer here. And I think, in answering these questions, we're going to get an insight not only into the intense, passionate, focus of the Apostle Paul, but also to answer question, what kind of intense passionate focus should we have to our lives? And what role, what priority should frontier missions have for us, individually, and for this local church?
That's what I'm about this morning. Basically... Let me say, quite directly, when I get done, I would like you to feel a sense of a passionate focus to your own life that's, to some degree, tailor-made for you. And if you don't have it, to go seek it this afternoon until you get it. And secondly, I would like us to be about, in a very intelligent, clear way, a strategy for advancing the Gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus before. That's what I'm about. So, individually, I'd like each of you to have a passionate focus that's connected to the Great Commission and tailor-made to you and your spiritual gifts.
And secondly, I want this church to take its rightful place along with the other churches around the world in advancing the Gospel to the frontiers. I guess I'm done, aren't I? I don't need to do anything more. Well, I'd like to do a little explaining, with your permission, and I like to ground it in text, because it's there.
Paul’s Calling Had Prevented Him From Visiting Rome
Why Paul hadn't visited Rome yet. Well, let's go to the end of our section, and work a little bit backwards. Verses 20-22 are the key to answering the question of why he hadn't been to Rome yet. Paul there says, in verse 20, "It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it is written, 'those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.' This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you." Do you see the answer to the question?
What is the answer to the question? I hadn't been there yet because my calling prevented me from it. And what was Paul's calling? Well, he was called to be a frontier, pioneering, trailblazing, church-planting, evangelizing apostle to the Gentiles, that's what he was called to do, and he knew it. He was called by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles, with the priestly duty of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to them. And his understanding of that call was that he was to give priority in his life to the regions of the world that had never heard of Jesus before.
And, as we learned last week in verse 14, now you see it in context, the Roman Church was a mature church, with good leadership, with brothers and sisters that were full of goodness, complete in knowledge, and competent to counsel one another. And therefore, they didn't need him to come, you see. Now, it doesn't mean that everyone in the city of Rome, had heard of Jesus, that wasn't it. But it wasn't a frontier, not by his definition, it had a good solid church, and they were able to have a harvest among the Romans there, and that's why he wasn't going to go. Although, he says in verse 15, he had taken the time to write them boldly, to remind them about a few points, yet, they were a fully mature church.
II. Paul’s Passionate Focus
And so, here, we get a glimpse into the central calling of Paul's apostolic life, and here we get a glimpse also into Paul's passionate, concentrated, white-hot focus.
In 1987, I went on a mission trip to minister to Afghan refugees, and these refugees had been chased out of their country by the communist Russians who were carrying on that satanic worldview that we talked about back in 1917. And the Muslims had toppled the communist government in Kabul, and so the Russians came in to restore order. And in so doing, they made lives a living hell for thousands and thousands of refugees who fled to Pakistan. And I think there can be few earthly circumstances more miserable than fleeing from your country because of helicopter gunships, running to a country that only partly is willing to tolerate you there, but has no plans to take care of your needs, knowing that every relative that you've been separated from, there's a likelihood that at least some of them are dead, those could even be your parents, your siblings, your children, your spouse, you may never see them again. And you've been stripped by the experience of every single worldly possession you have, and the future is looking very dim indeed, and worst of all, from my perspective, you don't know God.
Without hope and without God in the world, that's what they were. What a dreadful, dreadful situation. And so, we start to minister to them, and one of the things we wanted to do... The problem there is that there weren't a lot of trees, and so therefore, they couldn't make fires to cook their food. And so, we brought them solar ovens to cook their food and boil the water, which is very important to purify the water, and all that. These things were designed to concentrate the sun's rays, to catch them and focus on a certain place, where if you put a pot of water or some meat, it could boil water as fast as your stove, almost as fast. Or it could cook meat as quickly as an average oven. It was really amazingly designed. The concentration of the sun's rays on the central point, it was hot enough to boil water. And I think I see that in Paul's life. I see it in the internal journey in Philippians 3, when he says, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, one thing I do, I press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." There's a concentrated focus on the internal journey.
But when it comes the external journey also, he has an ambition, he has an ambition. Now, let's look at that word ambition. He says in verse 20, "it has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known, so I wouldn't be building on someone else's foundation."
A World Full of Ambitious People
You know, the world is filled with ambitious people. You look at Napoleon, for example, an empire-builder, you know what he said about ambition? He said ambition is never content, even on the summit of greatness. Oh, he had a vision for the world too, didn't he? And he was willing to pay in blood, not his own blood, but he was willing to pay in blood to see his vision, his ambition realized. And the measure of his commitment to his ambition you could see in the blood tracks of the French army coming out of the snows of Russia. He was an ambitious man.
There's all kinds of ambitions, great and small. Athletes have ambitions too. I was reading about Ted Williams, who, early in his career, said, "It's been my ambition since I was a boy that when people saw me walking down the street, they'd point to me, and say, 'There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter that ever lived.'" Now, I'm hoping along the way that he found our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, because that's not going to do very well for you on Judgment Day. But that was his ambition, to be the greatest baseball hitter that ever lived. Businessmen, look at Bill Gates, he's a man of soaring intellect, amazing comprehension of the software industry, and of, almost, I would think, a ruthless ambition to make Microsoft, in its industry, what the oil, Standard Oil was in the 19th century. Or some of these railroad magnates who were called, by some, the robber barons, they were ambitious men and they were willing to build an empire of business. Ambition is somewhat of a neutral thing. It totally depends on what it's connected to. If it's a good thing in the eyes of God, then ambition for that good thing is itself a good thing, but if it's plugged into something evil, it's a wicked thing.
Ambition drives a lot of achievement in this world, for good or evil. Ambition overcomes every obstacle. It organizes life and power and concentrates it, like that solar oven, in a single direction, so that things get accomplished. It drives a person to make great sacrifices to achieve that goal. That's what ambition does. But ambition can also drive an individual to self-worship, to ego gratification.
A Holy Ambition
Now, Paul had a godly ambition. Look again at verse 20, "It's always been my ambition," he says, "To preach the Gospel where Christ was not known." Here, he identifies the grand and glorious ambition of his life of ministry. He's called to be a trailblazer, to go where no man had gone before, he's called to survey the terrain, to level the ground and lay the foundation of a new work for the glory of Christ, in location after location.
He was called to be a pioneer and to open up new works for others to follow. Now, the word, the Greek word for ambition here is made up of two smaller Greek words, which means love and honor. For the love of the honor of doing it, that's what it is. And he yearned for the honor of being able to go into some pioneer trailblazing place, and advance the Gospel of Christ. Now, Paul's whole life, I think, as we know it in the scripture, was characterized by drive, wasn't it? He was an ambitious man before he met Christ. He was a ladder-climbing Jew, a Pharisee who wanted to become the greatest Jewish man that ever lived, I think. And so, in Galatians 1:14, he describes himself, "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age, and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers." So he was ambitious.
And in that zeal and ambition, he went on the road to Damascus, with letters in his hand from the high priest, to arrest any in Damascus who were Christians, and bring them back to Jerusalem for judgment, breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. That ambitious drive wasn't crushed on the road to Damascus, it was just redirected, is that how we should put it? How about 180 degrees, the opposite direction? Turned around, entirely, a different way. And why? Because he saw the glory of the risen Christ. He saw the glory of God and realized his ambitions were small and petty, they became, Philippians 3, like rubbish to him, nothing to him.
From that point on, Paul knew why God had left him alive, he left him alive to accomplish a mission. Now, so many of us lack a single focus to our lives, a drive, a reason for getting up and doing what we do, an overriding vision of life that characterizes and describes everything that we do, and helps us make decisions on whether we should go to Rome or not. Doesn't seem to be a theme that holds it all together, helps us decide what to do, where to live, how to spend our money, how to spend our time, what our job should be, what our career should be. To change the analogy a bit, it's like going through life like a sailing vessel, but there's no rudder, and the captain of the ship has no idea where he's going, he's got no charts, no compass, no sexton, it's in the fog, just drifting wherever the wind blows it.
Let me tell you something, Paul was not like that. He knew exactly why he was alive, and what work Christ had left him to do. For Christ had met him, with killing power, if he had wanted to, on the road to Damascus, and decided to let him live. He deserved to die, and he knew it, but he decided to let him live. "As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly, a light from heaven flashed around him… and he heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 'Who are you, Lord?' Saul asked. 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.'" Now, the words, "I am Jesus" changed his life. For the rest of his life, he knew that Christ had risen from the dead. "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Now, get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." That is the Lord speaking. He is giving direction to Paul's life. Paul would bend the knee to Christ the king, the Lord, and he'd say, "What do you want me to do, Lord?" And he said, "I'll tell you what to do, you'll be told what you must do."
So, from the start, there was a sense that Paul's life was forfeited. He deserved to die, and anything, from that point forward, was Christ's to do with, as he saw fit. Have you come to that place in your life? Have you come to realize that you don't and you didn't, apart from Christ, deserve to live? And anything you live from this point forward should be for his purpose, and his glory alone? Paul came to that point, and he expresses it clearly in this moving farewell address to the Ephesian elders. He said, "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace." Complete the task. Finish the race.
Do you have a task? Do you have a race that you're running, or are you just living from day to day? Paul knew what his task was, the task the Lord Jesus had given him. And even names of the task, of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace.
The Application of Paul’s Godly Ambition
Well, okay, that's his worldview, now he's going to apply it to a specific question. Should I go to Rome or not? Should I go to visit the people in Rome? He applied it first to his life of preaching, and he said, from... His whole focus was he was going to preach where those who had never heard of him, heard of Christ, would hear of him. Look at verse 21, he was going to occupy his time fulfilling an ancient prophecy. "Rather, as it is written, those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand." This is a direct quote of scripture, Isaiah 52:15, which is the introduction to perhaps the greatest prophecy of Christ in his atoning sacrifice, in the Old Testament, it's an introduction to it. The glorious suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Well, this is the introduction to it. Isaiah 52:13-15, this is what the prophet said six centuries before Jesus was born, "Behold, my servant will act wisely, he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him, his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.So will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand."
The suffering servant, the one whose appearance is disfigured beyond human recognition, he's going to sprinkle many nations, and kings will hear about them, but they haven't heard yet. Paul read that, and said, "That's my life calling. That's what I am called to do, so that those who have not heard will hear, those who have not seen, they will understand."
Bringing the Light to the Gentiles
That was his life calling. He made this intensely personal, these ancient prophecies about Christ, they became the marching orders of his private life. Speaking to the hostile Jews in Pisidian Antioch, they were rejecting the Gospel, and getting angry and hostile, and opposing him.
So he said, "Look, we had to speak the word of God to you first. That's what we're called to do, to the Jew first. But since you rejected, and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles, for this is what the Lord has commanded us." Oh, you could circle that word "us" in Acts 13:47, this is what the Lord has commanded us, "I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." Now, that is fascinating. It's a quote from Isaiah 49:6. One of the greatest prophesies of Christ ministry to the Gentiles is in Isaiah 49:6. He says, that's God says, "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light to the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." That, my friends, is a conversation between the father and the son, what theologians could call an inter-trinitarian conversation. The father says to the son, it's too small a thing for you just to save the Jews. I'm not sending you into the world for that. That's too small. I'll do that, but I'm going to do more than that. I'm going to send you into the world to be the light of the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation, my name, to the ends of the earth. That's why he sent Jesus as the apostle of our faith, he sent him into the world for that. It's too small a thing for you just to save the Jews.
Paul read that statement and he applied it to himself. This is what the Lord has commanded us. It's too small a thing. He's commanded us, concerning Jesus, that you may take my salvation to the ends of the earth. He's commanded me, he's commanded you, he commanded Paul and Barnabas, he's commanded us to take his name to the ends of the earth. This is what the Lord has commanded us. And so, I've been busy doing it, from Jerusalem all the way around to Yugoslavia, that's Illyricum, very hard word to pronounce, and to understand. But it's Yugoslavia, right across from Rome. I was close, I could have jumped on a ship and come right across, but I didn't have time, I was doing frontier evangelism so that the ends of the earth would hear about Christ. That's why. Verse 22, "I have often been hindered from coming to you." "I have been busy preaching the Gospel." Basically he is saying, "You brothers and sisters at Rome, you're mature, you're well-lead, you're competent to counsel, you're all of these wonderful things. You don't need what I have come to bring. I could help you. We would share each other's fellowship, and some mutual encouragement, and some spiritual gifts, but I am not staying long. I am going through to Spain and I need you to help me on my way." We'll get to that next week, God willing, and the following week. "I'll have you help me on my way to Spain, but I'm not setting up shop in Rome, I'm not buying a house, okay? I'm just moving on through." Do you have a focus like that?
Do you have a compelling reason to live everyday? Do you know what God is calling you to do with your life? Is your ambition holy or is it self-gratifying, ego-gratifying? Does your passion get applied ruthlessly to rule out lesser things that are not connected with your calling, like for Paul going to the church at Rome? Now, when we were doing the baptism, I said, "You know, the greatest thing that could ever happen to you is to have your soul saved by faith in Christ," just as Jimmy did. Praise God for you, brother, and praise God for what God's done in your life. But there may be some in a congregation this size that have not been saved, you've not been justified by faith in Christ, that is your task, that's the race in front of you. Don't leave this place today without trusting in the Messiah. Don't leave this place today without looking to Christ for salvation. Trusting in his blood and his righteousness alone. You're not ready for judgment day yet, if you haven't. And then, God will give you a race to run, he'll give you a work to do.
III. The Variety of Roles in Completing the Great Commission
Now, not everybody's going to get the same race. I want to say that very directly. There are variety of roles in fulfilling the Great Commission, a variety of them. Not everybody is called to the same ambition. We already covered this in Romans 12, as you remember when I preached on Romans 12. Romans 12:4-6 is the teaching of the body of Christ and "just as each of us have one body with many members, and the members don't all have the same function, so, in Christ, we, who are many, form one body, and each belongs to the other, and we have different gifts according to the measure of grace given us." We have different callings.
Now, I want to make this plain and clear by looking at two words in the text today. One is the word foundation, and the other ambition. Let's look first at this word ambition. It's used only three times in the New Testament. I want to take what I consider to be the foremost one, and that's from 2 Corinthians 5:9. There, Paul is explaining how to live in light of Judgment Day. Judgment Day is coming, and according to 2 Corinthians 5, all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one of us may render to him an account for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. So, in light of that, how should you live your life? Paul said, "I'll tell you what your ambition should be, and mine is too." "So whether we are at home or away we make it our ambition to please him [Christ]. That is a soaring ambition over every single Christian life. And that goes down to the details of your life, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. You can, as I said earlier, eat a ham sandwich to the glory of God. You can wash dishes to the glory of God. But let me tell you something, on the final day, when you stand before God, and all you did was eat all your ham sandwiches to the glory of God, you will have wasted your life. Be strategic. So that's one use of the word ambition. That's for everybody, make it now your ambition to please Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:9.
The second use we've looked at here in our text. Paul's ambition was to be a frontier trailblazing missionary, to tell people who have never heard of Jesus who Jesus was. That's his ambition.
There's a third very interesting use of the word in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and 12. Listen on this one. There, Paul tells the Thessalonian Christians, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." That wasn't Paul's ambition. Lead a quiet life, Paul did not need a quiet life. So if he intended to lead a quiet life, he was bored of his ambition, but that wasn't his ambition.
This is speaking, perhaps, to heads of families, to homeowners, to people who have families, and they're in a community, in a culture, and they're not called to be frontier trailblazing missionaries, they should settle in and make their life a light to the Gentiles around them, to live for the glory of God in that way.
So we have three uses of the word ambition, and they show that we don't all have the same calling in life. Let's look at this word foundation. He said, "It's been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not named so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation." Well, Paul, what's wrong with that? Is that a sinful thing, a bad thing to build on someone else's foundation? Not at all. As a matter of fact, Paul was counting on faithful people to follow him up and build on his foundation. He just wanted them to be sure they did it right. So in 1 Corinthians 3, just a few pages later, in Romans, but in 1 Corinthians 3, go ahead and look there, 1 Corinthians 3: 10-13, just about four or five pages over. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul is talking about his ministry, and Apollos's ministry. Paul went first to Corinth and preached, then Apollos came after him and followed it up.
And in 1 Corinthians 3:10 and following, Paul says this, "By the grace of God, I laid a foundation as an expert builder. And now someone else is building on it." Do you see that? It's not a bad thing to build on someone else's foundation. There's nothing wrong with it. "Each one should be careful how he builds, for no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ, if any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the day will bring it to light, it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work." So Paul said, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow."
We Must All Help Advance the Great Commission
We have different tasks according to the assignment of the Lord. There it is. We are called to different things. Now, what's my point? I think that each of us must have a passion, a drive, a desire in our lives, but they're going to be different, but we must all help to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Those are Jesus' final words to us, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always to the very end of the age." Just as he said in Luke 19:10, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Is that the center of your life and ministry, or is it just to eat ham sandwiches to the glory of God, to be sure you thank God for all of the blessings he gives you? Will that be enough for you on Judgment Day, to stand in front of him, and say, "That's what I did. I always sought to eat my ham sandwiches to the glory of God, and give you full thanks for the blessings you gave me in my life."
In 1906, James Fraser was studying engineering at Imperial College in London. Later, he became a legend, as Fraser of Lisuland because of his frontier evangelism and church-planting in the Yunnan province of China. The turning point of his life was in college, when he read a two-penny pamphlet about the needs of the Chinese. And it began with these two sentences, changed his life. James Fraser read this, "If our master returned today to find millions of people un-evangelized, and looked as, of course, he would look to us for an explanation, I cannot imagine what explanation we should have to give. Of one thing I am certain, that most of the excuses we're accustomed to make with such good conscience now, we shall be wholly ashamed of then," end quote. That's what he read in the pamphlet. He said, "Oh, I'm not living right."
He may be eating his ham sandwiches to the glory of God, but he wasn't living right, he wasn't living for the glory of God, for an overriding passion for the unreached people groups. He was never able to escape the power of those sentences. Many years later, John Piper, who's a pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, was preaching at Bethel College, and he talked about James Fraser of Lisuland. And this is what he had to say,
"A few years ago, when I had to preach my first mission sermon at Bethlehem, I took the Yellow Pages of the Minneapolis and Saint Paul phonebooks and counted the number of churches in the Twin Cities. There are more churches in the Twin Cities than there are North American Protestant missionaries to the 1.9 billion people that make up the 10,000 unreached people groups, the Muslims, Hindus, Chinese, and Buddhist unreached people groups. Let me say that again. There are 1.9 billion people in 10,000 unreached people groups, served by about 700 North American missionaries, but there are more churches in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul than that."
John Piper continued, "I can only think of one explanation for the state of affairs, disobedience. What will we say to the master who commanded us 2000 years ago to make disciples of those 10,000 peoples? It was a personal crisis for me, like it was for Fraser, and I told my congregation that I would have to resign and engage more directly in frontier missions if I couldn't be convinced that by my staying the Gospel could advance more readily to those frontiers than if I went myself."
He had to filter his own future in pastoral ministry through that filter. Well, I was disturbed by that. I read that and said, "Have I filtered my own future here at First Baptist through that?" Have you filtered yours? That the Gospel could be advanced more readily if I stay than if I go.
IV. Three Options for Frontier Missions
So I have come to the conclusion that there are three options for us, then, in frontier missions. What are frontier missions? It's the unreached people groups, people who are identified by culture and language and geography, they are in a certain area that have no viable witness to Jesus Christ. There's no foundation laid there. Joshua Project, www.joshuaproject.net, they give constant information about unreached people groups. They estimate 6,622. You know how important the Joshua Project number is, eternally? Not very, except that it motivates people to get going. You know the real number that matters? The one that God thinks, okay? When he says the work is done, then it's done. But why are the frontier missions so important?
Let me give you two reasons: Number one, because Jesus said that history won't end until they've been reached with the Gospel, that's the finish line of the human race. Matthew 24:14, "This Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come."
And secondly, because in the book of Revelation, in Revelation 5 and 7, there are people mentioned there from every tribe and language and people and nation. Revelation 5 says they've already been bought by the blood of Jesus. Revelation 7 says they will someday be around the throne with white robes. So it's already a done deal. It just hasn't happened yet. That's why frontier missions are important, and should be, for your life.
Three Options: Go, Send, Disobey
So what are the three options? You ready? You can choose one, you have to decide what you're going to do. I'll try to make it clear. Your three options are as follows: You can go, you can send, or you can disobey. Those are your three options, you can go, you can send, you can disobey. So choose one. I fear that too many of us are choosing the comfortable third option. Maybe they didn't know they were disobeying, but that's what they're choosing.
700 North American missionaries to the 1.9 million people in 10,000 unreached people groups. Could it be that some people didn't hear God call them and give them their race, their finish line, and they never went, and they should have? Well, let's focus on those who send. We're a sending church. Do you realize that 12%, goes to the Southern Baptist Convention automatically, so you're automatically advancing the Gospel just by giving money to the church, right? Is that enough? Oh, well, toward the end of the year, we have the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and the giving here has more than doubled in the last eight years. That's very encouraging. So if you give a gift in December, are you sending at that point? Is that enough?
William Carey, the first Protestant missionary, he preached what was known as the deathless sermon, attempt great things for God, expect great things from God. Out of that, came a small Baptist mission-sending group. It was so small that the first meeting was in somebody's parlor. That's all that that deathless sermon produced. But he said, "I will go down into the dark hole of heathenism if you will hold my rope. That's what sending is, you're holding someone's rope as they descend into the dark hole of heathenism. You're holding someone's rope as they go down to the unreached people groups, and none of them that are left will be easy to reach. Some of them will only be reached by martyrs. You're holding the rope as somebody goes down into the hole. Are you holding the rope? Are we holding the rope? That's my question.
I would love to see our church, in '06, '07 adopt, very clearly, an unreached people group, find out what missionaries are called there, or if there are none, than pray until some come, until some of you decide to be our unreached people group missionaries, and go get the requisite training, and go, until that group has a viable church planted among them, and then, when we feel they're strong enough, then we'll adopt another one.
I would urge us to do that until the Lord returns. To me, I think that's what holding the rope is about. So, as I come to the end of the message today, let me ask what I asked at the beginning, why do you do what you do? Why do you go to work? Why do you come to this church? Why do you get up in the morning? Are you just putting a brick on the wall, day after day, eating each ham sandwich to the glory of God? Do you understand? Do you have a bigger vision of wanting a good family, a good family life, to live for the glory of God in that way? Etcetera. You building a wall, or are you building a new world by the power of God? Do you have a world-changing vision that Jesus shall reign from shore to shore till moon shall wax and wane no more, that the nations are Christ, but not all of them confess him yet. What are you living for? Close with me in prayer.